Jun 16, 2020

Cenex helps utilities create hydrogen vehicle infrastructure

William Girling
3 min
Hydrogen car
Cenex, a non-profit organisation, has partnered with two utility companies on creating a fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles...

Cenex, a non-profit organisation, has partnered with two utility companies on creating a fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The company, which helps others to reduce carbon emissions through innovation, will be assisting two gas distribution networks (GDNs) - Northern Gas Networks and Wales & West Utilities - to meet the UK’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Opting to pursue hydrogen as a clean alternative energy source, Cenex is working with the two GDNs to plan the necessary infrastructure that would make the plan feasible.

This plan will need to factor in the numerous complexities of a utility company’s fleet: a range of vehicle sizes, weights and power ratios, as well as specialised onboard equipment, will require a robust solution - one which Cenex considers beyond electric vehicles’ (EVs) capabilities for some time.

Hydrogen: fuel of the future

In addition to being one of the most abundant elements on the planet and a truly clean energy source (the only byproduct is water), hydrogen possesses almost three times more power than gasoline by volume.

However, despite this potential, advanced hydrogen fuel cells remain generally unavailable. Therefore, Cenex will be designing mandatory transport routes for the hydrogen fleets (using available technology) with integrated refuelling points along the way.

It is hoped by the company that the effective organisation of this logistical system will show the GDNs what hydrogen vehicles can achieve and encourage further development.

“Cenex will use its experience in hydrogen transport and infrastructure to assist Northern Gas Networks and Wales & West Utilities in measuring the total energy demand of their fleet, including emergency response vehicles,” said the company on its website.

“This is the first step towards real-world hydrogen vehicle trials and zero-emission fleets”.

Drawing a roadmap for zero-emission fleets

In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to enshrine its 2050 environmental pledges into law. Therefore, companies across practically every industry, but particularly the energy sector, have been devising new ways to bring their business into line.

Sarah Cooper-Birkenhead, Fleet and Plant Manager at Northern Gas Networks, said:

“Gas distributors have a crucial role to play in helping the UK meet its net-zero carbon ambitions. At Northern Gas Networks, we are aiming for 50% of our fleet to be made up of ultra-low emission vehicles, including hydrogen vehicles, by 2026.

“By scoping the practicalities of running a hydrogen-powered fleet, this project can help gas distributors make the transition more effectively.”

Similarly, Lucy Mason, Innovation Manager at Wales & West Utilities, added that hydrogen’s potential to make every aspect of the energy production process greener was a valuable asset and one which deserves development.

“This project is a great opportunity for us to understand the role hydrogen vehicles can play in our own fleet and help us deliver for the communities that rely on us across Wales and South West England.”

Finally, Anthony Reid, Innovation Engineer at EIC, which is supporting Cenex in this endeavour, concluded:

“This project represents the commencement of an ambitious journey, for the gas distribution networks, towards greener business operations.

“In the runup to this project being kicked off, Cenex has continually demonstrated its wide-ranging expertise and established its importance in aiding the UK transition towards large scale low carbon vehicle deployment.”

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Oct 19, 2020

Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process

Scott Birch
3 min
Nevada firm aims to become the primary manganese producer in the United States
Nevada firm aims to become the primary manganese producer in the United States...

Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.

Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.

The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content. 

In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.

Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.

"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president. 

“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.

"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.

Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.

Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.

A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.

The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.

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